Outlining an Intro Essay for Smarthistory: A Flipped Classroom Activity

In my last post, I posed the question of where does one even start in flipping the classroom. I’ve read a number of blog posts about this very idea. I’ve been to workshops that address the flipped classroom. But I always want tangibles. I want people to give me specific examples so that I can see how they actually did the flipping. I promised myself I would try to write about my own experiences more. Here we are, some years later, and I’m getting to it in a more specific way. Consider this part 2 to Where does one even begin in flipping the classroom?

In my Renaissance art class this semester, I decided to implement a few new activities. One involved students working in teams to draft an outline of an introductory essay for Smarthistory. The majority of foundational materials they read or watch before class come from Smarthistory, so students are well-versed in Smarthistory-speak. For our discussion of Venetian art of the sixteenth century, there is currently no introductory essay on Smarthistory. Instead, students read or watched the following:

Specific examples, esp. Giorgione and Titian

In class, I asked students to create an outline of an introductory essay that they felt would be helpful to the novice learner. I asked them to combine what they had read/watched with what they imagined might be useful. They were to include not only the written content, but also the visual material: would maps be useful? What types of images? How many?

They created the outlines on large post-it posters, and I brought a huge bag of markers so they could get as creative as they wanted. We spent 45 minutes on this activity.

Students creating posters in Renaissance art class.
Students creating posters in Renaissance art class.

The teams did really well, and they all drafted excellent, insightful outlines. Frankly, with any of the outlines someone could draft a useful and compelling introductory essay to Venetian art in the sixteenth century.

It turned out to be a wonderful activity that helped students retrieve information, digest it, organize it, and much more. It gave them some ownership of the material. It was a nice way to begin to have them think about public art history, and materials that will reach a broad audience. I will definitely be doing this activity again this semester!


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